A homegrown Philippine church is seeking international backing to help pressure the government to re-investigate the unresolved murder of a bishop five years ago - writes Maurice Malanes.
"We continue to ask our partner churches - such as the Anglican, Episcopal and Old Catholic Churches - in the international community for solidarity and support for the case," Bishop Ronelio Fabriquier of the Philippine Independent Church told ENInews in an interview in early October.
On 3 October 2011, the church commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of Bishop Alberto Ramento of Tarlac province, who was found stabbed at his rectory. Three days later, the Tarlac police declared the case solved, claiming it was a simple case of robbery and homicide.
Ramento's kinfolk and parishioners claimed otherwise. They said shortly before his killing, Ramento, a noted farmers' and human rights advocate, had been receiving death threats.
"We hope to build international and local pressures (to continue to persuade the courts to reinvestigate the case)," said Fabriquier, chair of the South-Central Luzon Bishops Conference.
Global church organisations such as the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) have condemned Ramento's killing, issuing statements and urging Philippine government agencies to investigate. The WCC and other church organisations also had sent fact-finding missions to the Philippines and met with the agencies.
"The international call for a review of the case must be sustained as we expose the military and police's attempt to downplay Ramento's murder as a simple petty crime rather than extra-judicial killing," the Rev Ferdinand Anno of Union Theological Seminary told ENInews.
Anno is among church leaders calling for justice for Ramento and 30 other church workers, mostly human rights advocates, who were killed, allegedly at the hands of the military, during the 2001 to 2010 regime of former President Gloria Arroyo. Last June, President Benigno Aquino promised to address the issue of extra-judicial killings. But he told media representatives last month that it takes up to ten months to investigate a single case.
Despite Aquino's promise, church leaders lamented what they call the indifference of the government over the case of Ramento. "I believe we cannot expect Aquino to attend to our pleas because Bishop Ramento had been an active supporter of the farm workers of Hacienda Luisita [a landed estate of the Cojuangcos, Aquino's maternal clan]," said Fabriquier. Most of the 6,000 workers have been demanding that Hacienda Luisita be distributed to them.
Established in 1902, the Philippine Independent Church traces its origins from protests and revolts against Spanish friars in the 17th and 18th centuries. Partly born out of the appeal of nationalism and the search for Philippine independence, the church - a member of the WCC, the Christian Conference of Asia, and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines - has six million members.
[With acknowledgements to ENInews. ENInews, formerly Ecumenical News International, is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]